Skylights featured five times on Earth Science
Picture of the Day: 1
Photo of the Week. Taurus and the Pleiades rise
beyond bare branches.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 9, 2001.
Some weeks are busy, others not -- this one defines "not," except
for the chance to see a dark star-filled sky. The only "news" as
such is the new Moon, which takes place the night of Wednesday, the
14th, around midnight in North America. Under near-perfect
conditions, the thin crescent, less than a day "old," might be
visible the night of Thursday, the 15th, but that would be a near
record -- you will really have to wait until the evening of Friday,
the 16th, the sighting to be highlighted next week.
While there are no crossings, conjunctions, and so on, the planets
still shine with their admirable brilliance. Though the planets
sometimes seem to "line up" (but never exactly), they are now
spread all over the sky (ignoring Pluto) in three clumps that
consist of Mars-Uranus-Neptune, Jupiter-Saturn, and Venus-Mercury.
(Such groupings come and go and mean nothing physically -- they
represent only an attractive sight.) Mars, moving easterly through
Capricornus between Neptune and
Uranus, is still quite visible in the southwestern evening sky, and
does not set until after 10 PM. Saturn, on the other hand,
beautifully placed in Taurus to
the east of the Hyades, is now
rising just before evening twilight ends. Jupiter, in the middle
of Gemini, makes a splashier
impact, rising around 8:30. The two will make a glorious sight in
mid-winter skies. Though the close visitation between the
morning's Venus and Mercury is now over, Venus remains behind to
mark the dawn sky, though just barely, the bright planet now rising
after twilight and visible only low on the eastern horizon.
Though we speak of 88 "official" constellations, there are really
many more, "informal constellations" called "asterisms." The "Great Square" of Pegasus now lines up on the meridian
to the south around 8 PM. Directly below it, find the "Circlet" that makes one of the fish
of Pisces, the fishes. To the
right you can see the triangle that makes the "Water Jar" of Aquarius. A bit to the northwest of
Pegasus, and passing nearly overhead in mid-northern latitudes, is
Cassiopeia, the Queen, who reigns
with not one but two asterisms, her famed "W" and her "Chair" (made
of the "W" and one other star), which represents an uncomfortable-
looking throne if ever one was. Among the best-known asterisms for
northerners is the Little Dipper of Ursa Minor, the smaller bear, which itself contains
another asterism, the "Guardians of the Pole," Kochab and Pherkad. They appear to "protect"
Polaris, the star that lies
almost directly at the sky's north
rotation pole, and is almost an asterism all by itself. Others
abound, to be highlighted in the months to come.